Trish Hina is not a household name. However the Gisborne social worker happens to be one of New Zealand’s greatest sportswomen.
Hina has represented her country in four sports: league, union, touch and softball.
In the early nineties when Hina was at Naenae College in Wellington, there existed few opportunities for girls in rugby. Hina recalls; “I had to play in the boys’ grade up until I was thirteen. At college there was no rugby, league or sevens’ teams for girls.”
Hina chuckles, “I was asked to play for the boys’ First XV.”
Hina instead played softball and touch at college, where she made rapid progress in both sports. In 1993 she was selected for the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ touch team that toured Australia. Hina laments, “we got wasted.”
In softball she helped Naenae win the 1991 National Secondary Schools’ title and earned selection for the New Zealand Maori, Under-19, and senior White Sox teams.
Hina played second base, was an adept hitter, and even an occasional pitcher during her softball career. She played for New Zealand until 1997. Between 1998 and 2000, Hina helped Hutt Valley win three National provincial titles. In 2006 she led Wainuiomata to the national club title.
Hina says, “I had to give touch away after college because of softball commitments. When I started playing softball it was getting a lot of funding so there was a lot of travel. I toured America, Japan and Australia playing softball. Unfortunately the sport is struggling a bit at the moment.”
Hina played softball alongside some of New Zealand’s greatest. Kiri Shaw, ow a teacher at Naenae, represented New Zealand for several years. Kiri is the daughter of Naomi Shaw, who captained New Zealand to their only World Series success in 1982.
The Lote sisters, Togi and Upe, were stalwarts of the game and are the cousins of champion New Zealand cricketer Ross Taylor.
After a hiatus from rugby, Hina resumed the sport after school and also got involved with rugby league. In 1993, New Zealand Rugby League established competitions for women. Hina would play club rugby on Saturday and league on Sunday.
Hina was selected for the first Kiwi Ferns side that toured Australia, but didn’t attend because of softball commitments. However, the stand-off soon established herself as the best women’s league player in the world.
Hina was a member of the Te Ahora club side in Wellington that won 11 consecutive Wellington titles. In 1999 she captained Wellington to the National title, historically an event dominated by Auckland due to its large Polynesian population.
In 2000 Hina was named MVP at the first women’s rugby league World Cup. She recalls; “the first World Cup was only small. It featured three teams, us, Australia and Great Britain. In the final we beat Great Britain 26-4.”
In 2000 Hina was named New Zealand Rugby League Player of the year.
The second World Cup was staged in Auckland in 2005 and was a much larger event. In addition to New Zealand and a New Zealand Maori selection, teams from Australia, Great Britain, Tokelau, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa attended.
In the final, New Zealand beat the New Zealand Maori 58-0, illustrating the strength of the women’s game in New Zealand.
In 2008 the Kiwi Ferns defended their World title again and Hina was named MVP of the World Cup for a second time. In the final, New Zealand thrashed Australia, 34-0 and Hina played arguably her greatest game, scoring two tries and kicking three conversions.
Hina reflects, “That game was played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and was really special for me. I am a massive Broncos fan and my favourite player is Darren Lockyer so to do well on the Broncos’ home ground was really cool.”
In 2009 Hina moved from Wellington to Auckland in an attempt to achieve the one goal that had eluded her – to make the New Zealand women’s rugby union team, the Black Ferns.
The move proved to be an inspired one! Hina played second-five and centre for an Auckland team that won their third-successive title. Surrounded by better players, the 33-year-old was the only uncapped player selected in the Black Ferns squad the 2010 Women’s World Cup.
Within a year, Hina cracked a side that had only lost three games in twenty years!
At the World Cup, Hina played four matches as New Zealand won the tournament, making Hina the first women to win a league and a union World Cup.
However Hina struck adversity:
“I felt really bad at times during the tournament and when I went to see the doctor I was diagnosed with stage-four kidney disease, which is basically the same disease that Jonah Lomu has, but in a more mild form. I have had to manage my blood pressure and eventually I will have to get a transplant.”
Despite missing the final, which New Zealand won 13-10 against England, Hina says that winning the union World Cup was the “pinnacle” of her career. New Zealand played with 13 players for 20 minutes!
Hina says the biggest changes she has noticed in women’s sports are the greater fitness of the athletes and the increased opportunities available to them. Hina has ruled out Sevens’ in Rio in 2016 and concedes it would have been “lovely” to make a lot of money, but has “no regrets” about her sporting endeavours.